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Veterans with PTSD May Benefit from Equine Therapy

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As veterans have high rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and historically poor treatment outcomes and high attrition, alternative treatments have gained much popularity despite lack of rigorous research. For this study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, a recently developed and manualised eight-session group equine-assisted therapy for PTSD (EAT-PTSD), was tested in an open trial to assess its preliminary feasibility, acceptability, and outcomes for military veterans. 

The study, conducted by Yuval Neria, PhD, found that manualised EAT-PTSD shows promise as a potential new intervention for veterans with PTSD. It appears safe, feasible, and clinically viable. These preliminary results encourage examination of EAT-PTSD in larger, randomized controlled trials.

The study was conducted from July 2016 to July 2019. Sixty-three treatment-seeking veterans with PTSD enrolled. PTSD diagnosis was ascertained using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-5, Research Version (SCID-5-RV) and confirmed using the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS-5). Mean age was 50 years, and 23 patients (37%) were women. Clinician and self-report measures of PTSD and depression were assessed at pretreatment, mid-treatment, and post treatment and at a three-month follow-up. An intent-to-treat analysis and a secondary analysis of those who completed all four clinical assessments were utilized. 

Thirty-two patients (50.8%) showed clinically significant change at post treatment and 34 (54.0%) at follow-up. Post-treatment assessment revealed marked reductions in both clinician-rated and self-reported PTSD and depression symptoms, which persisted at three-month follow-up. Specifically, mean (SD) CAPS-5 scores fell from 38.6 (8.1) to 26.9 (12.4) at termination.  Only five patients (8%) withdrew from treatment, five before mid-treatment and 1 afterward.

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